Changing face of Singapore industry

Changing face of Singapore industry

The changing face of Singapore industry

Recent research into demographic trends in Singapore has revealed that industry is beginning to demonstrate subtle changes in growth. Where wholesale and manufacturing industries were once prominent on the economic landscape, there has been an inexorable shift towards companies in transport and construction. There has also been a lot of expansion in the hospitality sector.

The local newspaper The Straits Times has reported that these facts are reflected in the list of the 50 fastest growing companies in Singapore, as compiled by the DP Information Group. The Group compiles its listings by applying various criteria to a qualifying short-list of companies who have maintained profitability and double-digit revenue growth over three years.

The hardest hit sector of the Singapore economy was undoubtedly financial companies. The recent global crisis has left many economies reeling, and while Singapore has managed to weather the worst of the storms, the markets remain volatile and unpredictable. As a result of the crisis, between 12 and 25 fewer firms were unable to meet the specific criteria for the case study.

Financial companies, battered by the recent financial crisis, predictably took the biggest hit this year, with 12 or 25 fewer firms unable to meet the criteria.

Manufacturing was the next worst hit, 56 firms qualified - down from last year's total of 75. While the wholesale sector was reliably well covered by the terms of the survey, with a sizeable 108 firms fully meeting the criteria, this figure was actually 13 fewer than the comparable figures from last year.

These figures could be compared to 17 more transport firms, and 14 more involved in the construction industry, compared to the same totals in these sectors from 12 months ago. The transport sector actually matched the wholesale industry by contributing four companies in the survey's top 10.

Successful young entrepreneurs

successful young entrepreneurs

Singapore's successful young entrepreneurs

If there is one aspect of life in Singapore that is particularly encouraging, it's the fact that young people are encouraged to express themselves from an early age. This definitely fosters a strong entrepreneurial spirit amongst the island state's youth.

Amongst the up-and-coming business people from Singapore who have embarked on successful financial careers from a tender age are Chua U-Zyn. Typical of the inventive and mature outlook of so many Singaporeans, he began to experiment with basic computer programs aged seven. After many years spent developing and honing his skills, he founded, a service aimed at providing a platform for Singapore's dedicated regiments of online bloggers. U-Zyn became so successful because of his intrinsic knowledge of what his community aspired to. To this day, is a continuing success story, with users posting over 5,000 individual blogs each day.

Another inspirational Singaporean entrepreneur is Paddy Tan Lek Han. At a young age he saw the possibilities for anti-theft devices, and went on to pioneer a series of unique lost-and-found services, under the mantle of Bak2U. The main motivation behind this remarkable young businessman was to provide a better life for his parents, a commendable aspiration that he has more than fulfilled with the success of his enterprise.

The blogging community was also the driving force behind, the brainchild of Cheo Ming Shen. is a vibrant blog advertising community that enjoys high traffic ratings in Singapore. "Being a boss, a salesman, and a client all at once is a challenge you do not get anywhere else but in business."

The internet is undoubtedly proving to be an inspiration for so many of the island state's budding dot com millionaires. Chew Choon Keat set up (deadlink now), established as a platform to allow users to share interesting web pages. Recycling web content in such an audacious way might seem like such a no-brainer that it is surely remarkable no-one had thought of doing it before. Chew Choom Keat's unique take was to run with a basic idea and employ some dazzlingly speedy execution to get the site up-and-running. Once he had created his little slice of the web market, he could begin experimenting to fine-tune his entrepreneurial ideas.

Another fine example of Singapore's often apparently limitless pool of young talent is Herryanto Siatono, a web application designer responsible for two ultra-cool sites. Pluit is a web application design and development house, producing superior ideas for quality sites. His other venture, BookJetty, is an online platform specifically designed to allow cataloguing of book collections, as well as the ability to follow friends' bookshelves.

Natural riches in Singapore

Natural riches in Singapore

Singapore's natural riches

Singapore is characterized by its densely populated and highly urbanized environment. However, what is less well known is the fact that this small Asian state is also renowned for its natural beauty. A familiar image may be of clustering skyscrapers but the 63 separate islands that make up Singapore harbor many ecological wonders. The Singaporean government has been quick to acknowledge the wealth of natural resources on its own doorstep.

The whole Singapore region was once teeming with rainforests. Centuries of civilization and settlement have severely curtailed this resource, to the extent that the Bukit Timah Reserve remains the only significant example (occupying 400 acres near the centre of Singapore). What this area lacks in size is more than made up for by natural heritage. This forest contains over 800 species of flowering plants and well over 500 species of fauna. In 2011 the reserve was declared an Association for Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Heritage Park.

Speaking in the Singapore Parliament recently, Nominated MP Geh Min drew attention to a particular tree growing in Singapore's Botanic Garden – one whose importance to the scientific community considerably outweighs is inconspicuous position amongst Singapore's last remaining rainforests.

Back in 1992, a scientist from the USA's National Cancer Institute (NCI) dropped in on Singapore to discover if the Calophyllum tree grew in this environment. A sample had originally been found in Sarawak, although that site had been cleared by the time the researcher returned to the location. However, the species that he came across in the Botanic Gardens was similar – the Calophyllum lanigerum. The significance of this discovery lay in the fact that this plant contains Calanolide A, a compound which scientific researcher from the NCI have demonstrated to have an ability to prevent the onslaught of full-blown AIDS in individuals who have the HIV virus.

The potential life-prolonging elements inherent in this plant species have led to further clinical tests, with Dr Geh having described the 'magic chemical' present in Calophyllum lanigerum. "Our nature areas have, after long neglect, come to be valued for their recreational, heritage and even educational functions, all of which are difficult to quantify. But their potential scientific and economic value is still not properly recognised."

Work-life balance

Work-life balance

Work-life balance is a key issue for Women in Singapore

As Singaporeans are notorious for working beyond their office hours, achieving a work-life balance remains a central issue in the city-state, particularly for women. According to a recent poll by the National Trades Union Congress (NTUC), 43% of respondents did not have enough time for their families, while four in five said they hardly had any personal time.

However, Singaporeans' lifestyle remains governed by a fierce competitive mindset, high employers' expectations, and a strong commitment to work. Thus, current values and behaviours hinder an effective work-life balance.

According to Robert Half's 2011 Workplace Survey, 69% of Singapore employees tune into work when they are out of the office or on holiday, higher than the regional average of 66%.

This situation is especially dramatic for women, to whom parenthood becomes an obstacle for their careers while their long hours keep them from looking after their children. As a consequence, Singapore's birth rate has dropped dramatically in the past years, to one of the lowest levels in the world.

The government fears that this phenomenon could threaten the economic stability built up over the past few decades. In order to reverse the trend of declining birth rates, the authorities have continuously tried to entice couples and women to have children through a myriad of schemes.

Last month, women in Singapore called for an end to baby making campaigns. Many agree that the key to increasing birth rates does not lie in boosting maternity leaves, but in improving work-life balance.

"We are so busy meeting our key performance indicators as workers, we don't have time to spend with our families," Nanyang Technological University assistant professor Debbie Goh told Bikya News.

She illustrated why Singaporeans are concerned about having children: "I talked to a teacher. She has four kids... She appreciates the schemes we have for working mothers... But she said, ‘If I took all these schemes, then I am pushing my work to my colleagues and other teachers and further more when it comes to assessment time, my head of department and my principal will not know what grade to give me. Even if you give me more of these leaves and perks, it will not help me with my career.'

So what would encourage Singaporeans to have children? She said ‘improve work-life balance.' Professor Goh said work-life balance depends on the attitudes of the employers, attitudes of the individuals and social norms - "everybody is working, so I have to work long hours too".

In order to help women find the perfect work/family balance, NTUC-PME has organised a webinar (27 June from 8.00 to 9.00p.m. via that will focus on "Leaders in the Tech Industry for its inaugural session. The guest will be Ms Jessica Tan -General Manager, Regional Enterprise Business, Microsoft Singapore- who has 20 years of experience in the Tech Industry, including 14 years with IBM. Netizens will be able to ask her how to achieve a successful career, how she found the perfect work-life balance, and how to face the challenges posed by being a woman. In this inaugural session, viewers might find useful tips and inspiration.